Millions of Michigan residents receive public assistance through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Half of them tried to apply for and access these benefits online. However, the existing application was not mobile-friendly and it required more than 45 minutes to complete. This created delays and frustrating experiences for residents and agency staff.
MDHHS worked with Civilla and Code for America to develop a web-based portal using Agile methodology to streamline the benefits application process and to expand residents' access to their benefits. The team reached out to residents and agency staff to understand their needs and the challenges they faced throughout the process. Residents reported that the existing application did not seem secure for uploading sensitive information and that it failed to provide information or application updates. This increased pressure on agency offices, errors on forms, and wait-times.
The team used this research, and the results of an earlier pilot program to redesign benefit applications for mobile phones in one Michigan county, to prioritize mobile usability, program integration, and accessibility in their website design. Civilla collaborated with the state's technology vendor to prototype wireframes of the website with residents. The website utilizes plain language, large buttons for tapping, and clear instructions.
Project Outcomes and Impact
The award-winning MIBridges website simplifies benefit application, benefit renewal, and document submission. The portal also contains a list of local resources and offers text-message reminders. MIBridges reduced application time by 50 percent, increased document submission by 1,300 percent, and sends hundreds of thousands of reminders and referrals.
The MIBridges project is an example of how modernizing interfaces for benefits programs and prioritizing mobile-friendly solutions can improve user experiences, deliver benefits efficiently, and reduce pressure on agency staff. Other organizations may also approach projects using the Agile methodology for identifying goals, conducting field research, and testing designs.